Monday, January 29, 2007

Last Week in BBQ, Part I: Clem's BBQ, Outside Port Matilda, PA

This addressless, open air shack on the side of PA-322 just outside of Port Matilda, PA (pop. 638) serves up real wood-fired 'cue.

Inside, we found one guy in full winter gear placing ribs on racks above a glowing woodfire. Another bundled-up worker was handling sales from a little booth-like area within the shack. A tiny, open-sided wood stove provided heat for customers standing in line. Frozen marshmallows and roasting sticks waited next to it. The menu boards announced all the barbecue standards you'd expect, but the one intriguing item, boneless ribs, had sold out by 4:30 pm.

We got a pound of chopped pork--tender chunks punctauted by smoky flavor as well as the occasional fleck of bone or cartilage. The house sauce--thick, tomato-based and tangy--was slathered over the cue as an afterthought. (That might be how things work everywhere but the Carolinas, but I still prefer my pig to be drenched with vinegar-based sauce as it smokes for hours). Clem's potato salad managed to be both velvety and chunky (delicious!). The baked beans were nothing to brag about.

As you may have guessed, the vending machines handle all the beverage sales.

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Anonymous RobL said...

I'm so freakin jealous.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I am addicted to Clem's. We make the 500 mile trek a couple times a year on the way to my visit my grandmother outside of Altoona.

Last week I brought home 3lbs of the boneless ribs and had them for dinner tonight - slathered with their sauce. SO AMAZING!

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are places in the country where they would drag you behind a pickup truck just for calling this garbage BBQ.
The signs say "Real BBQ"..which is blatant false advertisement.
The truth is, the ribs are boiled in water and liquid smoke, then thrown on a GRILL(*) until it has char marks, then thrown in a vat of cheap tasteless sauce where it simmers FAR BEYOND the point of OVERCOOKED.
Contrary to popular belief, rib meat is not supposed to FALL off the bone. The entire reason for slow smoking is to make the connective tissue of the meat transform into a succulent geletain. The meat should PULL from the bone with a slight resistance.
Rib meat "falls off the bone" when that geletain is cooked out, due to improper temperature and cooking methods.
You don't have to drown ribs in sauce if they are cooked properly. People drown ribs in sauce to hide the fact that they cannot cook ribs.
I made the mistake of stopping there once. I paid about $10 for ribs, and what I got was a styrofoam container of bones and chunks of overcooked rib meat drowned in what appeared to be Cattleman's BBQ sauce. There was no smoke flavor because the ribs were NEVER SMOKED dispite the huge pile of firewood being wasted.
I would have fed the whole mess to my dogs, but I happen to LIKE my dogs...and besides, my dogs are too smart to think this is "REAL BBQ." They've had real BBQ.
You could only pass this off as BBQ in the North.
These ribs are for people who don't like ribs, but absolutely LOVE the flavor of cheap discount club BBQ sauce. Why you'd want to waste the money on the ribs is beyond me, when you can just drink red sauce from the bottle and get the exact flavor, and nearly the same texture.
It's a shame to see a man waste so much pork and firewood.

BBQ= slow indirect heat and smoke. Precise temperatures kept.
GRILLING= placing meat directly over fire.
Clems uses a GRILL pit..not a BBQ pit.
BBQ implies the cooking method. Please stop calling this boiled/grilled/steamed junk BBQ!

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with the last post.
Couldn't have said it better.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Clems BBQ said...

Anonymous, Badwolf, and or Paul: Your dedication to Clem's is appreciated. Everyone deserves to have an oppinion about the food they eat. Lots of places have different styles of cooking. We think we have a pretty good style that the people in this area appreciate. At Clem's we sell 15,000 lbs of meat per week. How many pounds per week do you sell?—There must be plenty of people that like the stuff. If you don't like it, don't come back—this is America. There is a really good barbecue restaurant in State College, Beaulahs, you should check them out. The smoked wings are great, also try the Burnt ends.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

15,000 pounds of meat PER WEEK?? That's a lofty claim, but then, so is "REAL BBQ".
Even if it were true, McDonalds has served billions of quite possibly the worst hamburgers in the world, and Budweiser has sold billions of gallons of quite possibly the worst beer in the world.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Clems BBQ said...

Give me a break! My staff and I take pride in serving a bunch of great people that appreciate our BBQ. You certainly have the right to enjoy a restaurant that serves your style of BBQ. I believe BBQ is truly a great American institution. From the many traditional styles appreciated by purists as yourself, to our unique style, fully appreciated by not only our local customers, but many good customers from the South. By the way, I’ve stopped by at least a 100 BBQ’s, all throughout the country, and each one has their own style and flavor. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but I’d never tell them how to run their business. Bottom line is that the market decides—which is also another great American institution. Again, enjoy your style of BBQ, we’ll continue to take pride in serving ours.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Clems BBQ said...

And by the way, Badwolf, Paul, or anonymous, (what ever) next time your in Port Matilda, stop in and say hello, it would be nice to banter with you (in person), clearly you are dedicated to the sport of barbecue. We like Beer, we'll hook you up!

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have stopped by Clem's twice now while on a motor cycle trip to St. Mary's, Pa. I am from Virginia.

The only problem I have with Clem's is that there does indeed seem to be a lack of "smoke" flavor.

I agree with Clem though, I've had BBQ all over this country, all over the world for that matter; each place is different. I have enjoyed Clem's style each time I've stopped by. I've not had Country Cut rib anywhere that rivaled Clem's. Good Job and I'll see ya'all this spring!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clem has a new outpost in State College PA where he serves his ribs out of an igloo cooler. Don't think the igloos are brought continuously all day, they cook a big batch and let the food sit all day until sold

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

badwolf ive read your comments all over the web hating on clem's, you are the biggest douche bag possibly in the entire world. i happen to love clems, i dont care if its dog crap with sauce on it cooked in a crock pot, i think its delicious. its great food and just because it doesn't meet your definition of bbq you hate it, you sir are an embarrassment to america and human beings everywhere it is a miracle that a dumbass like yourself has managed to even learn how to type on a computer.. clems rules you asshole.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Clem's....MMMmmmm....I've eaten there many times over the years....Even put a fire out there once!! (PMFC) I think the food is GREAT!! (To each his own...) I moved south, down to Florida last summer and boy do I miss stopping there for their great food!

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Clem's is a gem said...

Anonymous, badwolf whoever, is the same troll - ignore it accordingly.

It posted on Yahoo reviews as "hotwhitewench"

With the same hack and paste "critque", what a tool!

3:30 PM  

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